STRAUSS Elektra; Rosenkavalier - Suites
Given that the orchestra could be described as one of the key characters in Strauss’s Elektra, it is surprising that nobody before Manfred Honeck has made a suite of music from the opera. In collaboration with the Czech composer Tomá≈ Ille, he has created a 33-minute suite performed with tremendous élan by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Honeck employs opulent forces, but scaled down from the 110 musicians Strauss demands in the pit.
The recording packs a mighty punch from the initial Agamemnon motif, scything brass braying Elektra’s revenge theme. There is percussive glitter for Klytemnestra, whip cracks marking the arrival of her entourage. The full barbarism of Strauss’s score makes a searing impact, Orest’s murder of Klytemnestra especially brutal, yet there are moments of great tenderness too. Reference Recordings affords the Pittsburgh Symphony a weighty sound, strong in bass attack. Honeck provides his own excellent booklet-notes which give the listener a blow-by-blow account of the music, with helpful timings.
After a polite pause, horns whoop their libidinous joy to launch another Strauss suite. Der Rosenkavalier, given here in Artur Rodzin´ski’s 1944 arrangement, offers a high-calorie feast after the visceral drama of Elektra. Composed only two years apart, the operas occupy very difficult musical worlds. Honeck, who’d have played this many times in the Wiener Staatsoper pit, teases the waltz rhythms with halting rubatos. Baron Ochs’s waltz steals in on the softest, most hesitant of strings, returning with great bluster to conclude the disc. A splendid showcase for Honeck’s Pittsburgh forces.